Louis Armstrong (featuring Lonnie Johnson): Savoy Blues
Louis Armstrong Hot Five
The Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, Volume III (Columbia)
Composed by Kid Ory.
Recorded: Chicago, IL, December 13, 1927
Rating: 89/100 (learn more)
This is the third of the classic Louis Armstrong Hot Five recordings with the special addition of jazz and blues guitar great Lonnie Johnson.
In this recording, unlike the other two, Armstrong does no singing; it's a pure instrumental. Armstrong and Johnson once again stimulate each other with cornet-guitar exchanges and create a song that builds and flows and produces a coherent work of musical art. Armstrong on cornet and Ory on trombone give us some good old New Orleans blues smears and lines, along with Johnson's typical fine, bluesy finger work on the guitar. And the three of them build to a rousing, climbing crescendo towards the end, finalized with a subtle effect at the very end, with Johnson's guitar having the last word.
Two downsides are Lil Hardin Armstrong's rather plodding piano, from the beginning; and the bulk of the track doesn't quite reach the heights of intense, dynamic, innovative ensemble work that "I'm Not Rough" and "Hotter Than That" achieve. An interesting side note: Original New Orleans-style banjoist St. Cyr plays guitar here, rather than banjo. But one could not call it a guitar duet with Johnson. St. Cyr's rhythm guitar work serves its foundational purpose, but when Johnson comes in he shows how he is light years beyond the traditional rhythm guitarists, even in this more modest workout.
Reviewer: Dean Alger